Beyond Do’s and Don’ts—The Life of a Green Initiative is Its Community


At its very core, the green movement is about sustaining life—and it seems that the best way to honor and preserve our surroundings is to participate in the life that surrounds us every day. Sure, going green means taking some specific steps—to reuse, recycle and reduce as much as possible, to eliminate waste. But beyond the concrete do’s and don’ts, we’ve realized that the heart of the Guidance program is based on relationships—with our clients, among our employees and within our community.
In fact, it was a client relationship that inspired us to start our own green journey in the first place. Bentley Prince Street, a manufacturer of broadloom and carpet tile products for commercial interiors, committed to eliminating any negative impact it has on the environment by the year 2020. The team told us about its goal in early 2007, and we were so inspired we decided to examine our own practices. And a new Guidance mission was born.
The result:  Guidance achieved carbon neutrality in the fall of 2007—a full 18 months ahead of the goal we’d set for ourselves. Along the way, we found that the combination of action and community is a formula that works well for us and, we believe, is a key to success for all companies going green.

The Actions We Took
In March 2007, Guidance employees officially declared that the environment matters to us, as a business and as individuals. We signed a declaration to set in motion actions that will help Guidance go green. Our declaration is posted at http://www.guidance.com/images/green/green.pdf.
We established a committee—Guidance Green—and crafted a mission statement around an ambitious yet concrete goal: to operate as an environmentally aware, carbon-neutral company by 2009. We evaluated our consumption of non-renewable resources and developed strategies for reducing consumption where possible. We found energy, paper, plastic and CO2 emissions to be the big ones, and thankfully there are some easy ways to start making a difference:

Energy:
â–     Hibernate/turn off all computers and peripherals when not in use.

â–     Use energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.

â–     Install lighting censors to turn lights out in rooms not in use.

â–     Set the A/C on timers to reduce consumption in off hours.

Paper:
â–     Use only recycled paper.
â–     Print double-sided whenever possible.

â–     Encourage paperless meetings.

â–     Distribute interoffice memos electronically rather than in hard copy.

â–     Eliminate the use of paper plates in employee lunch area.

Plastic:
â–     Discourage or eliminate the use of plastic bottled beverages.

â–     Eliminate plastic utensils and plates in the employee lunch area.

CO2 Emissions:   
â–     Encourage alternative modes of transportation.

â–     Encourage ridesharing by designating premium parking spaces nearer the entrance for those who carpool.

Offsetting our remaining carbon footprint.
Even companies with conservation policies in place still produce carbon emissions. So we determined our “carbon footprint”—the amount of carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere in a given year. We calculated total kilowatt hours of electricity used, automobile miles driven for each vehicle (including each employee’s commute, plus miles driven for meetings), number of airline trips and amount of natural gas used.
Using those figures, we worked with Green Mountain Energy to calculate how many metric tons of CO2 Guidance emits annually (people can do this on their own using an online carbon calculator). There are two ways to offset these emissions to become carbon neutral: purchase renewable energy credits, or help fund a reforestation project. 
For 2007, we purchased renewable energy credits to offset 100 percent of the carbon emissions associated with our business activities. The renewable energy source derives from wind and biomass production facilities, and this action helped avoid more than 99 metric tons—or 219,000 pounds—of CO2 per year, which has the equivalent impact of not driving more than 243,000 miles.

What We Learned Along the Way
The most exciting part of our experience has been the ways we’ve been able to expand our commitment beyond a list of do’s and don’ts and engage with others in a more personal way. Here are some strategies we’ve found helpful and inspiring:

â–   Participate in volunteer activities outside the office.
This is an invaluable way to get to know one another and build true community among colleagues around something other than work. We’ve partnered with local organizations to clean a nearby beach, plant trees and pull weeds in a state park, even tour a local home designed to be environmentally friendly.  

â–   Engage all employees as much as possible.
There are plenty of ways to be involved besides being on the committee. We designated a recent week as “e-waste week,” during which Guidance employees brought items from home that aren’t supposed to be thrown in the trash. We collected them for proper recycling. Beyond the obvious benefits, there were laughs galore at the antiquated laptops, computer monitors and CPUs that people still had.

â–   Provide a public forum where employees can share their ideas and experiences.
We created the Guidance Green blog (http://www.guidancegreen.blogspot.com/) for this purpose, and it’s been a great way for all Guidance employees to share their thoughts, what they’ve done, things they’ve learned or anything else green-related. It’s become our hub, of sorts, and it’s an easy way to make this a collaborative effort and to share ourselves with the outside world.

It’s the sharing that stands out as the most important part of a green initiative, because one never knows how or when others will be inspired to action. We’ve seen first-hand how one company sharing its story can influence another—and we’re hoping we can continue the legacy given to us by our client who inspired us. PRN

This article was written by Jon Provisor, owner and CTO of Guidance, a specialized technology advisor that builds and supports Web technology solutions that help businesses thrive online. It was excerpted from the PR News Going Green: Case Studies in Outstanding Green Business Practices, Volume 1.  To order a copy, visit http://www.prnewsonline.com/store/




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